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Spirit industry leaders push for change to MN microdistillery laws

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DULUTH, MN-- Microdistilleries across Minnesota are facing a challenge that dates back to the prohibition era.

A state law limits the number of bottles sold out of the cocktail room and size of the bottle.

Local distillery owners say the restrictions cap production and growth.

Sitting cozy next to the Aerial Lift Bridge lives Duluth distillery, Vikre.

"Our microdistilleries are employing hundreds of people, using millions of pounds of Minnesota grain each year, having a big impact on the tourist economy," said Vikre Co-Founder, Joel Vikre.

Vikre is just one of dozens of microdistilleries across the state fighting to allow more sales from their cocktail rooms.

"The most we're allowed to sell you is one of these miniature bottles," Vikre's owner said while holding a 375 ml glass bottle of Sugarbush Whisky.

Right now, Minnesota microdistillery laws are more restrictive than most other states. The point -- to make sure businesses like Vikre don't heavily eat into the business of liquor stores.

But Vikre thinks the law is too much. He said, "In many ways, it's a good law. It's created a vibrant local alcohol economy. The problem is, it's not good for small players. We can't make as much money, we can't do as good of advertising, we can't hire as many people."

The Minnesota Distillers Guild is pushing for legislation that would increase bottle sales from 375ml to 4.5L per person, per day.

When customers Rick and Karla Edin come up to Duluth from the Twin Cities they make sure to stop at one of their favorite spirit spots.

Rick said, "not having the option to buy a full-sized bottle is definitely a deterrent. It's great to be able to buy it at a liquor store but also if you're here it would be great to buy something."

Across the state, the guild has been collecting coasters that outline their mission.

"We've collected thousands and thousands of these signed coasters and we're going to be bringing them a hearing at the houses this Friday," said Vikre who is also the Legislative Chair of the Minnesota Distillers Guild.

An ask to also increase the production cap from 40,000 to 100,000 gallons of alcohol per year is included.

"If you allow small distillers to sell their own product to customers, that generates brand loyalty. Those customers then go buy from traditional retailers."

The hearing is scheduled in the house commerce committee Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you're interested in signing a coaster you can find an electronic signature link here.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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